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What Is Democratic Socialism, American-Style? | Common Dreams | Breaking News

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: socialism, democratic socialism, Denmark, Bernie Sanders, not same as communism, US History, progressive legislation, popular )

- 1360 days ago -
In the early 1900s, socialists led the movements for women's suffrage, child labor laws, consumer protection laws and the progressive income tax. In 1916, a socialist congressman, sponsored the first bill to create "old age pensions" i.e. Social Security


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Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 2:34 am
Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign is generating lots of media attention, the word "socialism" is in the news. But few Americans know what it is or what Sanders means when he describes himself as a "democratic socialist."

In the early 1900s, socialists led the movements for women's suffrage, child labor laws, consumer protection laws and the progressive income tax. In 1916, Victor Berger, a socialist congressman from Milwaukee, sponsored the first bill to create "old age pensions." The bill didn't get very far, but two decades later, in the midst of the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Congress to enact Social Security. Even then, some critics denounced it as un-American. But today, most Americans, even conservatives, believe that Social Security is a good idea. What had once seemed radical has become common sense.

Much of FDR's other New Deal legislation -- the minimum wage, workers' right to form unions and public works programs to create jobs for the unemployed -- was first espoused by American socialists.

Socialists were in the forefront of the civil rights movement from the founding of the NAACP in 1909 through the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Socialists have long pushed for a universal health insurance plan, which helped create the momentum for stepping-stone measures such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s and Obamacare today.

In the 1890s, a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote "The Pledge of Allegiance" and a socialist poet, Katherine Lee Bates, penned "America the Beautiful."
Throughout our history, some of the nation's most influential activists and thinkers, such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Eugene V. Debs, and Gloria Steinem, embraced democratic socialism.

King believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." In October 1964, he called for a "gigantic Marshall Plan" for the poor -- black and white. Two months later, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the U.S. could learn much from Scandinavian "democratic socialism." In fact, he told his staff, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."

During the Cold War, many Americans confused democratic socialism with communism. In fact, democratic socialists opposed the totalitarian governments of the Soviet Union, China and their satellites. That's because democratic socialism is about democracy -- giving ordinary people a greater voice in both politics and the workplace.

Although Sanders says that America needs a "grassroots political revolution," he is actually a reformer, not a revolutionary. His version of democratic socialism is akin to what most people around the world call "social democracy," which seems to make capitalism more humane.

This is why Sanders says that the U.S. should learn from Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- countries with greater equality, a higher standard of living for working families, better schools, free universities, less poverty, a cleaner environment, higher voter turnout, stronger unions, universal health insurance, and a much wider safety net

Sounds anti-business? Forbes magazine ranked Denmark as the #1 country for business. The United States ranked #18.

European social democracies put greater emphasis on government enterprise, but even most Americans favor government-run police departments, fire departments, national parks, municipally-owned utilities, local subway systems and public state universities.

Socialists believe in private enterprise but think it should be subject to rules that guarantee businesses act responsibly. Banks shouldn't engage in reckless predatory lending. Energy corporations shouldn't endanger and planet and public health by emitting too much pollution. Companies should be required to guarantee that consumer products (like cars and toys) are safe and that companies pay decent wages and provide safe workplaces.

Sanders' socialism means reducing the political influence of the super rich and big corporations, increasing taxes of the wealthy to help pay for expanded public services like child care, public transit, and higher education, reducing barriers to voting, and strengthening regulations of business to require them to be more socially responsible in terms of their employees, consumers and the environment. That means a higher minimum wage, paid sick days and paid vacations, and safer workplaces.

Because the word "socialism" has been demonized, few Americans call themselves socialists or even social democrats. But public opinion polls -- including the Pew Research Center, Hart Research Associates and The New York Times/CBS -- show that a vast majority of Americans agree with what Sanders actually stands for.

For example, 74% think corporations have too much influence; 73% favor tougher regulation of Wall Street; 60% believe that "our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy;" 85% want an overhaul of our campaign finance system to reduce the influence of money in politics; 58% support breaking up big banks; 79% think the wealthy don't pay their fair share of taxes; 85% favor paid family leave; 80% of Democrats and half the public support single-payer Medicare for all; 75% of Americans (including 53% of Republicans) support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12.50, while 63% favor a $15 minimum wage; well over 70% support workers' rights to unionize; and 92% want a society with far less income disparity.

On those matters -- both broad principles and specific policy prescriptions -- Sanders is in sync with the vast majority of Americans. There's a great deal of pent-up demand for a candidate who articulates Americans' frustrations with the status quo. That's what American socialists have been doing for over a century.
Indeed, socialism is as American as apple pie.

David C (75)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 4:16 am
I've always thought we were The UNITED States, but the way the GOP talks we should be the 50 separate states or more........UNITED presumes some okay of a central government and working together to me.

David C (75)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 4:16 am
PS _- I would be proud to say I'm a democratic socialist

Ben O (129)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 9:32 am
Yeah, WHAT is it...?

Yvonne White (229)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 2:46 pm
Noted & shared! :)

Past Member (0)
Thursday October 29, 2015, 10:55 pm
Ben---in honor of Halloween---Democratic Socialism is making sure that when "Uncle Sam" doles out fists full of "candy", the Republicans don't grab it all and distribute the treats only to the wealthy;.leaving the dregs for the middle class and only "tricks" for the poor. Thanks BMutiny.

Darren Woolsey (218)
Friday October 30, 2015, 12:00 pm
We now have a genuine Democratic Socialist party in the UK. It's called Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, and is an antidote to the toxicity of David Cameroon and Gideon Osborne's Conservative destroyers of public good.

Birgit W (160)
Friday October 30, 2015, 1:08 pm
Noted. Thanks.

jan b (5)
Friday October 30, 2015, 1:50 pm
Germany is not a socialist country .and is the largest national economy in Europe Its got a government and a public sector and a welfare system but its got a large private sector.
:"Yes, it’s absolutely true that Sweden and Denmark have both high taxes and large welfare states .. underneath the high tax and large welfare states they’re economically free, even classically liberal economies." (Paul Krugman, economist ) ECONOMICALLY FREE = emphasizing free markets, free trade, and private property under free ----

Janet B (0)
Friday October 30, 2015, 1:54 pm

jan b (5)
Friday October 30, 2015, 2:05 pm
I'm not a big fan of Bernie Sanders who copies what democrats have said an done before so he credit himself with it during his constant campaigning for another position in Govt.

During her term as Secretary of Labor, FRANCES PERKINS executed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With the Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard forty-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service, Perkins resisted having American women be drafted to serve the military in World War II so that they could enter the civilian workforce in greatly expanded numbers.[

Donna G (42)
Friday October 30, 2015, 2:52 pm
Since Bernie Sanders is running and has shown his progressive values, Hillary is starting to call herself a Progressive. However Democrats of today are more Centrist than Progressive. It's kind of like how the Republicans used to be a long time ago.

However, I would never call Hillary a Progressive. She is more of a Centrist or possibly a conservative Democrat. Bernie Sanders wants to end capital punishment ( that means the death sentence). Many states have already done so, including Martin O'Malley's state, when he was Governor.

Yesterday, on RSN, I watched a video where Bernie was talking on some college campus and a Muslim student stood up. I watched what he said to her and too the crowd and it brought tears to my eyes. Bernie speaks from his heart. He even got a standing ovation.

Hillary speaks and it sounds scripted and rehearsed.

Julie W (33)
Friday October 30, 2015, 5:29 pm
It's hard to understand how anyone can be against these values! But I still see comments on another forum where socialism is confused with communism. Next opportunity I get I'll post this article there.

Kathryn Mitchell (8)
Friday October 30, 2015, 5:41 pm
I'm proud to call myself a Democratic Socialist...

Karen L. Lew (1)
Friday October 30, 2015, 6:21 pm
Being a retired editor, I have to be nit-picky. The possessive for Sanders is Sanders's. What is used here (i.e., Sanders') is the possessive of multiple Sander.

Cindy Brickner (4)
Friday October 30, 2015, 11:33 pm
Words and ideas can be used, abused, and misconstrued. At least take time to study them BEFORE you automatically dismiss them from consideration. It is crucially important that we all make an effort to REALLY THINK about the future of our country.

PlsNoMessage se (588)
Saturday October 31, 2015, 2:33 am

Marco C (31)
Saturday October 31, 2015, 6:30 am
Well stated BMutiny.

In a conversation with a Norwegian physician, we were shocked to learn of a 70% income tax and even more so when he stated that he didn't mind. Couldn't fathom that. However, he did provide the following explanation:

There were no concerns regarding health insurance coverage for himself or his family. He did not need to concern himself regarding education for his children including post graduate degrees nor would he be concerned for his retirement.

I thought about that for a moment. The government would relieve him of managing the finances, investments, negotiations on his behalf. He could be assured that if his children qualified, they would receive the education they needed, and access modern heath care. Because it was in the interest of the government to promote the best possible outcome for educated and productive citizenry. So, instead of a few individuals consuming resources, the collective resources were gathered to promote the best possible outcome for the nation as a whole.

He felt a degree of relieve believing that he could focus on what he could do best, while others would concern themselves with what he did not feel so confident with. Interesting....................

pam w (139)
Saturday October 31, 2015, 6:40 am
I believe Jan b is paid to bring Hillary Clinton into every possible discussion.


Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Saturday October 31, 2015, 7:44 am
In EVERY Election Campaign, PAID TROLLS have shown their heads.
We'll see A LOT MORE OF THAT coming up.
Best to IGNORE them, not answer them. Isolate them.
They are usually Rethuglicans, DIRECTLY PAID BY THE RNC, the Rethuglican National Committee.
Sometimes they [transparently] POSE as Democrats!
For example, in the last election round, a favorite Troll trope was, "I voted for Obama but now I'm sorry..."
A likely story! that they'll now vote for Mittens...

Jan b. may just be a "fanatic feminist".
But, Elizabeth Warren, and Jill Stein [running for Prez on the Green Party ticket, SCANDALOUSLY not allowed in the Debates], ARE MUCH MORE WORTHY than Hillary, for Progressive Values... Hillary has painted herself as a "Progressive" ONLY BECAUSE OF BERNIE SANDERS' POPULARITY. Look at her actual record, it's aligned with the Corporations... She sounds good, but once in office would OF COURSE switch back, even more so than Obama did.....
A true Progressive with those values, wouldn't vote for a woman just because she was a woman [think Margaret Thatcher!] any more than voting for Dr. Ben Carson just because he was Black.....

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday October 31, 2015, 1:13 pm
Another "Democratic Socialist" for Bernie here.
So, if we want to fund all these important programs, we still need money. Unfortunately, I didn't read within the article that the War Machine is sucking up an abundance of our tax money......which SHOULD be spent within our own American borders on our citizens.

Grover Norquist is still asking candidates to sign his "no raise in taxes" pledge, too; as he stated on Bill Maher's HBO show last night. Those on the other side of the fence have manufactured a system where they pay less taxes, make tons of money off Wall Street ventures (often investing in "war corporations"), use the money to buy politicians, and keep the cycle going. None of us in the 99% are getting anywhere financially because of their policies. So, of course they absolutely detest anything that smells like Democratic socialism, and will take every chance they can to demonize it in the media.

I agree that Hillary is no progressive. I would love to vote for the first female President, but she is not it. She is a war hawk. And, let's not forget that Chelsea is married to a hedge fund manager.....last I heard.

Rose Becke (141)
Sunday November 1, 2015, 1:03 am
I am with Julie W

Craig Pittman (52)
Sunday November 8, 2015, 8:51 am
I am proud to live in a socialist country and Canada is doing ok. We did swing a little to the right under the previous government but we have a new slightly left of center Party back in. Yup we are socialists not communists.

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 31, 2016, 9:05 am

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 31, 2016, 9:05 am
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